Big & bright fireball streaks over UK skies – Multiple views captured!
An incoming meteor (or bunch of space debris, which some experts say it may be) broke up between Scotland and northern Ireland within view of much of the United Kingdom, which has a population of nearly 70 million people. A green-tinged fireball lit up the skies over the United Kingdom late Wednesday (Sept. 14).
More than 1,000 reports (opens in new tab) flowed in to the American Meteor Society despite the late hour, including a collection of photos and videos of the fireball event. Dozens of reports and videos also appeared on Twitter, as you can see below, from dashcams, doorbell cameras and mobile phones.
Viewer Paul M. shared this view of a fireball (opens in new tab) on the American Meteor Society’s website. It was spotted Sept. 14, 2022. (Image credit: Paul M.)
A late-night fireball in the United Kingdom is visible over houses on Sept. 14, 2022. (Image credit: Stephen Mcknight)
One viewer joked that the universe was celebrating their newly minted Ph.D.
AMA’s initial computer trajectory suggests the fireball first appeared north of Loch Ryan (roughly a two-hour drive southwest of Glasgow) and disappeared north of Islay Island, further north along the coast of the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom meteor network reported 800 viewings (opens in new tab) of the fireball in the early morning hours, adding their experts suspect it is space debris.
Given the length of the reported event, at 19 seconds, astronomer Will Gater said on Twitter also said he suspected the fireball might be a space debris event (opens in new tab). Jonathan McDowell, a debris observer based at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted (opens in new tab) it may be SpaceX Starlink satellite 4653, “but my estimate had it going a bit to the south of the U.K.”
Gater also wrote an article for New Scientist (opens in new tab), and spoke with University of Glasgow planetary scientist Luke Daly; Daly, a member of the UK Fireball Alliance, said there is “a reasonably high chance that this is space junk” based on metrics such as its slower speed, “shallow entry angle [and] a substantial amount of fragmentation.”
Regardless of the fireball’s origin, the event was harmless as it took place dozens of miles (or kilometers) high in the atmosphere. No astronomical society has yet reported whether it generated meteorites, which rarely happen when a space rock naturally breaks up in the atmosphere and portions make it to the ground.